Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Barr secures Libertarian Party nod

May 26, 2008
Barr secures Libertarian Party nod; looks to affect ‘08 election
Posted May 26th, 2008

When former Republican Rep. Bob Barr announced that he would seek the Libertarian Party’s presidential nomination, many assumed he’d get the party’s nod. After all, he’s a fairly high-profile figure who’d be in a position to help Libertarians raise their profile and win some votes.

But Barr wasn’t about to get the nomination without a fight. For one thing, there are other party leaders who’ve been around a lot longer and who felt like it wasn’t Barr’s turn. For another, Barr isn’t entirely ideologically pure — he supports less government and lower taxes, but the Libertarian worldview/platform demands almost no government and practically no taxes.

It took a while — six rounds of balloting — but eventually yesterday, Barr won out.

Barr beat research scientist Mary Ruwart, who also sought the party’s presidential nomination unsuccessfully in 1983, on the final ballot. The vote was 324-276.

Barr endorsed Wayne Allyn Root, who was eliminated in the fifth round, to be his vice-presidential nominee. […]

The former Georgia congressman said he’s not in the race to be a spoiler.

“I’m a competitor and I’m in this to win. I do not view the role of the Libertarian Party to be a spoiler and I certainly have no intention of being a spoiler,” Barr said.

Barr said he expects the party to be on the ballot in at least 48 states and perhaps all 50 if the party can qualify in West Virginia and Oklahoma. Barr said he also expects to be invited to the national political debates by qualifying with poll support of 15 percent or more of registered voters.

Barr probably shouldn’t count too much on that debate idea, given that he’s going to have a very hard time getting to 15% in the national polls.

Nevertheless, the party is already on the ballot in 28 states, and is currently gathering petitions in another 20, and may actually be in a position to have an impact this year.

Noah Millman had an item last week in which he argued, “I’m becoming increasingly convinced that Bob Barr’s candidacy could have a significant impact on the 2008 election.” He makes a compelling case, not that Barr could actually win a state or electoral vote, but rather that Barr will be in a position to draw votes from John McCain by appealing to disaffected Republicans.

I’d just add two more angles to consider. First, this marks a key milestone for Bob Barr. Following up on an item from a couple of weeks ago, Dana Milbank reminded us of Barr’s colorful reputation during his four-term tenure in the House.

As a Republican candidate for the House in 1994, he rose to national attention when reports alleged that he had licked whipped cream off the breasts of two women at a charity event.

As a congressman from Georgia, the thrice-married Barr returned attention to the whipped-cream episode when, speaking in support of the Defense of Marriage Act, he argued that “the flames of self-centered morality are licking at the very foundations of our society.”

As one of the managers of Bill Clinton’s impeachment, Barr gained enough prominence to attempt a run for the Senate in 2002. But that effort fell apart at about the time Barr accidentally fired a .38-caliber pistol through a glass door at a fundraising reception.

Ironically, Barr became more principled and serious after serving in Congress. After departing Capitol Hill, Barr became disillusioned with what had become of his Republican Party. He was nearly apoplectic about Bush’s conduct in the NSA warrantless search scandal, suggesting the president “deliberately order[ed] that federal law be violated,” and “ignored” the Constitution. Shortly thereafter, Barr agreed to introduce Al Gore at an event in which Gore blasted the president’s “excessive power grabs.” He was also highly critical of the Bush administration in the prosecutor purge scandal.

About a year ago, Barr left the GOP altogether and began talking to the Libertarian Party, calling for a “multidecade effort” to build a movement to make the party nationally competitive. He added that many “real conservatives” have become disheartened with Republicans. “They are eager for a philosophical home,” Barr said. “There are enough of them out there that a significant number can be weaned away” from the GOP.

And finally, it’s also worth noting that Barr was competing for the Libertarian Party nomination against former Democratic Sen. Mike Gravel of Alaska, who is apparently retiring, telling reporters, “I just ended my political career.”

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